Today, sports are competing for fans and their wallets like never before. The product on the field needs to be entertaining and deliver an experience worthy of investment of time and money. Sponsors are answering this challenge. Brands, both endemic and non-endemic, are partnering with teams and venues to create experiences, photo ops and fan zones that enhance the game-day experience and offer a sense of authenticity and excitement.
One of the best, forward-thinking examples of this new(er) approach to the game-day experience is Bucs Beach. When people initially envision Tampa Bay, they see beaches, sunshine and perhaps a frosty beverage. How can an NFL franchise compete with a day soaking up the sun on a beautiful beach? They partner with brands like Bud Light, Publix and Frontier Communications to bring the beach to Raymond James Stadium. Bucs Beach is an immersive fan experience that includes music, live performances, tailgate games and photo opportunities. Fans can chill in a hammock, sample signature cocktails, taste the latest cuisine from an array of food trucks and infiltrate social media with a variety of branded backdrops. If Buccaneers fans struggle with the choice between a day at the beach or attending a game – they struggle no more.
While Bud Light, Publix and Frontier Communications are setting the standard with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their fans, other brands are creating memorable experiences fans can take home with them. A quality fan experience is especially crucial when it comes to marketing to the younger generation of sports fans, a generation bombarded by entertainment choices both real and virtual. According to a study from Creative Guerrilla Marketing, “78 percent of millennials are more inclined to become part of a brand if they have that face-to-face interaction.”
And, of course, we must give fans what they want. Consumers nowadays are much savvier in how they understand marketing. Therefore, they know when brands are delivering marketing messages. Agencies and brands need to be creative and considerate when creating experiences for fans and should have the fans’ preferences top-of-mind. With this philosophy in mind, brands are becoming more humanized, empathetic, and vulnerable. Brands are successful when they engage with consumers in ways that aren’t preachy or repetitive.
“To really connect a brand to their audience, we have found how critical the human-to-human experience is today. Today’s technology can be outdated within a year or so, and while digital and technology will always play an integral role within marketing strategies, people are gravitating towards interacting and we are seeing our clients’ brands respond to that in droves.”
Creating these experiences does not need to “break the bank” for a brand. The secret is delivering creativity, creating connections and enhancing the experience. STAR has recently worked with top brands to activate engaging fan moments at sporting events. In the sensory-thriving world in which we live, consumers are using their phones to capture real-time moments at games. Many of the projects we’ve worked on involve a moment that’s intended to be captured and shared. Here are just a few examples.
What did we do before we were able to express ourselves through emojis? Indeed, there is an emoji for every occasion. Our team at STAR was excited to work with Land O' Lakes to create a butter sculpture that commended the newest emoji addition: a stick of butter.
Allianz Field is the Twin Cities’ newest sports stadium, home of the Minnesota United soccer team. Since opening day, the team has enjoyed record attendance in the new stadium. Therefore, hometown retail giant, Target, wanted to help fans feel a part of the action. STAR worked with Target to create this bright, colorful photo op experience. In a two week turn time, our team managed drawings, engineering, fabrication, and full installation for the event activation debut. This easily stored and transported activation is called upon frequently for various fan engagement opportunities.
While legend has it that four-foot high letters were hand-carved by Paul Bunyan himself, we have it on good authority that the monument was actually created by STAR for Explore Minnesota Tourism. The MN-ument stands 40-feet wide and is available to appear at events throughout the state. This year alone, the most favored photo-op letters have been seen and enjoyed in Bentleyville “Tour of Lights”, ESPN X Games, the Minnesota State Fair, Allianz Field and more. Keep your eyes open for #OnlyInMN to pop up where you least expect it.
An effective activation strategy is the key to demonstrating maximum ROI for sports sponsorship. For an activation to work and have lasting impact on the audience, it must create emotional connections, enhance, not interrupt the overall experience, demonstrate authenticity and deliver revenue. Furthermore, according to Navigate Research, fans are five times more likely to purchase a product when made aware of a sponsorship and twice as likely to recommend the product or service to friends or family.
Let’s collaborate on ideas to have fans "take your brand home" from the next event you sponsor.
Have any questions about what we do at STAR? Want to talk experiential marketing? We're happy to chat with you. Contact us here.